By: L.N. Reklai
Court dismissed a drug trafficking case with prejudice on June 22nd due Republic’s failure to bring case to trial within 70 days. Dismissing the case with prejudice means the decision is final and the case can not be brought up again.
Stephen Kual Kochi aka Stephen Kual Pettit was charged with one count of Trafficking a Controlled Substance and one count of Conspiracy to Traffic in January 17, 2018.
Mr. Pettit asked the court to dismiss the charges against him because the Republic failed to bring him to trial within 70 days after his arrest or initial court appearance in accordance with 18 PNC § 403(c).
According to Court documents, Pettit pled not guilty to the charges but was unable to post both cash or surety bail and remained in custody and during that time, the case was not brought to trial.
Government argued that the charges should not be dismissed because the defendant did not assert his right to speedy trial and never requested that the trial be set.
Furthermore, it argued that it was unclear who represented the defendant from the Office Public Defender during various conferences due to the fact that another person was also charged for the same offenses and both were represented by different attorneys. Government further stated that it was therefore unable to enter any negotiations.
In response, court stated that the record is clear, that no trial took place within 70 day time period required under the Speedy Trial Act. Moreover, the defendant did not waive his right as required, none of the listed reasons for delay for the trial to begin were applicable to the case and the Republic did not request any continuance.
“As pointed out….staffing issues at the Office of the Attorney General should not be held against the defendant, particularly when an attorney from the Office of Public Defender appeared at all scheduled conferences in this case….more importantly, as Defendant correctly argues, he has no duty to bring himself to trial, and no duty to bring any delay to the court’s attention,” stated the court order granting dismissal of the case.
Furthermore, the court in deciding whether to dismiss with or without prejudice, expressed that dismissing without prejudice and allowing the charges to be re-filed “would be punishing the Defendant for the Republic’s violation of Speedy Trial Act.”
The court added that defendant should be released from custody if his sole reason for remaining there was failure to post bond.